COLLEGE PARK, Md. — From his home in New York, Ralph Hubbard has pushed for change along a dangerous stretch of Route 1 near the University of Maryland. His drive to encourage a safer road is fueled by his love for his late son, Cory, who was the first pedestrian this year to lose their life crossing Route 1 by Knox Road.
“It’s been horrible, going there, going to graduation and being around there,” Hubbard says of his trip back to College Park in May to accept his son’s posthumous diploma from the University of Maryland.
He says that as he made his way to the campus during the visit, he saw first-hand how bad the situation was.
“I was crossing from my hotel in the morning, and it was scary to cross,” he says.
On Monday, state and local officials announced a number of changes that will come to the area of Route 1 that has seen three pedestrian deaths this year alone.
“I am also glad that they are going to implement some real changes,” Hubbard says.
The changes include something Hubbard and Julieta Machado, the mother of another victim, Carlos Pacanins, has called for in the area — the lowering of the speed limit. On Route 1 between Guilford Road and Berwyn Road, the speed will change from 30 mph to 25 mph by the end of July.
“It’s something that needed to be done,” Machado says of the change.
Pachanins, 23, died in April, while crossing near Knox Road late on a Friday night. Machado, like Hubbard, has become an advocate for a safer stretch of road so no other family would have to go through the pain of losing a child.
“It’s very unfortunate that in the last seven months we’ve had three fatal accidents,” Machado says. The third victim, 21-year-old Janelle Oni, was struck and killed by a car just over a week ago.
Machado is pleased that the state and city have come together to make the area safer. When asked what she believes her son would have thought of the improvements, she says, “I’m sure he would have been a very strong advocate for these changes.”
Another change includes a temporary median fence, which officials hope will deter jaywalking in the area.
“If they can funnel all the students towards the intersections that are controlled, that would be a much safer situation,” Hubbard says.
Also on the list of upgrades: a pedestrian crossing light to be installed at Hartwick Road, the scene of the latest fatal accident.
The timing on several lights will also be modified to give pedestrians more time to cross and less time to wait between signals.
Machado says she hopes changes to the duration of area lights will prevent pedestrians from making a dangerous decision to cross without a walk signal.
“The green light for the cars is very long,” Machado says of the Route 1 light at Knox Road. She fears pedestrians will “get tired of waiting for the pedestrian light and tend to cross when they should not cross.”
On Tuesday night, the City Council will vote on extending the periods for speed camera enforcement in the area to include the times when there tends to be a lot of pedestrian traffic.
“The more they can monitor, the better — I mean, how can you put a price on those three lives now?” Hubbard says. “If people know there are cameras there, they’ll act accordingly.”
The University of Maryland, the city and state will also conduct a campaign to raise pedestrian awareness called Walk Smart College Park. Hubbard says he has offered the university pictures of his son to use on posters warning of the dangers of crossing when and where you shouldn’t. He would also like to see reminders for students “so that the last thing they see when they walk out of the bar is a reminder: No. 1, get home safely.”